A few years ago, I reviewed The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, which you can read here. I ended up reading it for class this semester, and my gardening senses started tingling when I read about all the plants in the book. I decided to write a paper about the herbs that the witches/healers used in the book, and horticulture's relation historically to witchcraft.
Witches and witchcraft permeate our culture. Every Halloween, without fail, congeries of witch hats flood the streets. There seems to be a cultural fascination with them, especially in recent years. However, witchcraft as a scholarly expedition is not new. Countless articles, journals and books have been written about them. The topics of incubi and succubi, demons, turning into animals, the devil and midnight joy rides on various cleaning apparatus are nearly to the point of being overdone. Well, maybe there’s room for more stories about traveling on appliances as technology advances. Who’s up for some stories about witches riding roombas?
The Whisper Man
Written by Alex North
Review by Jarad Johnson
Fall seems to have come somewhat unexpectedly. One day, I’m wearing sandals and the next I’m bundled up to my eyeballs in a coat and scarf. My immune system loves that. Sigh. But what I really love is a creepy book, and with the onset of fall, that’s what I’ve been reading. The Whisper Man is a book that I’ve heard about for a month or so now, and now is the perfect time to read it. The plot features a famous writer whose wife has just died, and the book deals with how he and his son try to cope with that loss. There’s also serial killers and ghosts, because why wouldn’t there be? No creepy book worth its salt is going to not have at least one of those things and why not double your fun? This is a book that I would call a “guilty pleasure.” It’s fun reading, and a good story, and a very nice break from all the assigned reading I’ve been given
Your old Uncle Morty is old and tired and dead, though not without the empathy that remains in the empty brain and abstract heart of anyone who has ever worn a suit of flesh. His previous embodiments leave him still puzzling as to why the living seem to value the miracle of being human so very little. Even when they can be led to believe that they themselves might have some intrinsic value they seem always unlikely to give that benefit of the doubt to others. I will give you a few scraps of reasonable advice that I myself found when I walked among the living. It was expressed by two of the best men I have ever known, Kilgore Trout and George MacDonald.
Now you may protest, “Uncle Morty, Kilgore Trout wasn’t real! He was a character in books. He was made up.” And so on.
All I can say is that being true matters more than being real. And if humans could grasp that they might be a good bit better off than they are. (And you may not know of George MacDonald at all…but he was both real and true.)
If you’ve never read God Bless You, Mr, Rosewater, you should. Even if you have, maybe you should look at it again, especially right now. It’s the story of a rich man who moves to a small town in Indiana to care for the plain and “useless” people there, through all of their troubles, depression, alcoholism, ugliness, and squalor, in big ways and small by simply not judging them and giving them what they need on a day to day basis, and also by making sure their volunteer fire department is extremely well-funded – more on that later. In short, Eliot Rosewater, did not measure the worth of the inhabitants of the run down and sad town of Rosewater as a percentage of someone else’s profit.
At any rate, here’s Kilgore Trout elucidating the beauty of Eliot Rosewater’s social experiment, his treatment of everyone no matter how “worthless” as a human being, someone who needs love and attention:
The problem is this: How to love people who have no use?
In time, almost all men and women will become worthless as producers of goods, food, services, and more machines, as sources of practical ideas in the areas of economics, engineering, and probably medicine too. So—if we can’t find reasons and methods for treasuring human beings because they are human beings, then we might as well, as has so often been suggested, rub them out.
Americans have long been taught to hate all people who will not or cannot work, to hate even themselves for that. We can thank the vanished frontier for that piece of common-sense cruelty. The time is coming, if it isn’t here now, when it will no longer be common sense. It will simply be cruel.
And here’s the bit about the fire department, explained by Kilgore Trout:
Your devotion to volunteer fire departments is very sane, too, Eliot, for they are, when the alarm goes off, almost the only examples of enthusiastic unselfishness to be seen in this land. They rush to the rescue of any human being, and count not the cost. The most contemptible man in town, should his contemptible house catch fire, will see his enemies put the fire out. And, as he pokes through the ashes for remains of his contemptible possessions, he will be comforted and pitied by no less than the Fire Chief.
Trout spread his hands. “There we have people treasuring people as people. It’s extremely rare. So from this we must learn.”
Here’s much the same thing from another perspective in a quote from George MacDonald.
On the rich young ruler
I do not suppose that the youth was one whom ordinary people would call a lover of money. I do not believe he was covetous, or desired even the large increase of his possessions. I imagine he was just like most good men of property: he valued his possessions-looked on them as good. I suspect that in the case of another, he would have regarded such possession almost as a merit, something he deserved. Like most of my readers, he would probably have valued a man more who had some means, and valued him less who had none. Most people have no idea how entirely they will one day alter their judgment, or have it altered for them, in this respect. How much better for them if they alter it themselves.
Book Launch:Chapter One
Pre-Ordering at Poetic Justice Books
Some of you have been following this site for a while and you have read a few of the Whistlestop stories. But there are more. The entire collection is available now!
Order with all haste at Poetic Justice Books and Art.
Here's a random excerpt to get you started...
Father Dingle, Some Mice, and the Portal to Hell -
Maybe it started with the mice. Maybe the exodus of mice was the first sign that there was something amiss in the church basement. The choir room had been plagued by mice for as long as Father Dingle had been there. Alan Cunningham, the choir director, had been belly aching about adequate storage for music since he’d been there. Father Dingle remembered Alan had nearly been in tears at a staff meeting after finding a mouse nest made with scraps of the Hallelujah Chorus. Alan found this situation neither economically nor spiritually tolerable. But the following year, early in the spring, church mice began moving out of the basement in droves. Father Dingle arrived at church one morning to find several families of mice scurrying up the basement stairs, down the hall towards the front doors. More mice appeared each morning, waiting to dash out as soon as the heavy wooden doors were opened.
The Mercy of Traffic, by Wendy Taylor Carlisle
Review by Julie Carpenter
The poetry reading muse is almost as fickle as the poetry writing muse. You read yourself into poetry, fill out its corners with your soul. So, reading in a bad mood, a good mood, the wrong, or right time of day, can really make or break your reading experience. You can read a poem after driving through rush hour traffic, and it leaves you cold, read the same poem after a glass of wine and see the beauty of it. But sometimes you read a chapbook that resonates at your harmonic frequency no matter when you read it. I read this book over several days, stopping to savor specific poems and found myself caught in its rhythms every time I picked it up.
True to the title, the words in this book move like car tires rolling over the interstates and back roads of the south. They capture movement – even when they are short and succinct as in the wonderful, tiny, gem of a poem “Vacation” which hints at the ripple effect travel and even a short displacement can have on a relationship. Every poem has a sense of the value of time. Every poem makes the most of the details of the physical world as they fly by whether through physical space or as the moments pass.
In her poem, Of Motion, she says,
In the dream, I am
always in motion, always
leaving or arriving, traveling
This particular piece captures the cadence of the entire chapbook. Though the reader can feel the movement, she manages to capture and distill moments and sensory details with precision. As we travel with her through time, we see all that she sees. What her eye catches, she depicts with deceptive simplicity. The pictures she portrays may be of everyday objects, but upon a second glance they are replete with meaning, pulling emotion from the reader’s own experience. Nuanced thought trails in the wake of each poem revealing the complexity of her vision.
For me this chapbook felt like a meditative journey. It has the same odd clarity that travel often brings, seeing a world, both new and somehow continuous, through the car window with every mile.
Julie graduated from Tennessee Weslyan with a BA in English Literature, and she has an MA from University of Memphis in Professional Writing. She was accepted to the Writer’s Hotel in 2016 and 2017, serving as as a teaching assistant in 2017. Julie is a Pushcart nominee for “Letter to Essie” in the New Guard Anthology VII, and has published four stories at Fiction on the Web. She will have a short story collection , Things Get Weird in Whistlestop, published with Poetic Justice Press later this year. She is currently working on a novel called “Last Train Out of Hell.” She can often be found blogging here on the Sacred Chickens website along with her cats, Uncle Morty and Jarad. (Actually, the cats don't blog. They're amazingly lazy.)
How Julie Steals Garden Ideas from Her Neighbors…And You Can Too!
by Julie Carpenter
I moved into a new house in April. I have done a few things around the yard. I’ve dug up some flowering peaches that were, sadly, in the wrong place and planted a few low-growing radicans gardenias instead, underplanted with June bearing and ever bearing strawberries. I also threw some seeds in the ground, cleaned out some beds, removed some awkward brick circles filled with irises that won’t bloom due to lack of sun and being buried too deep, and pruned dead branches.
I know that a lot of people move in somewhere and immediately have big garden ideas. I’m not those people. I need time to see how I feel about the garden and how it feels about me. I like to take the time to see if it offers me any gifts. I wait for bulbs and perennials to show themselves, for shrubs I don’t recognize to bloom. My new place might have garden ideas of its own. I don’t make garden decisions quickly. I also need time to steal garden ideas from my neighbors, a practice I highly recommend.